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My thoughts on everything from albacore tuna to zebras
OK, so I've finally been convinced (read that strong armed) into doing a blog. Frankly I hate the name...

Just another day at the Supermarket

It's simply amazing the things you can buy at the grocery store these days.

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April 6, 2008 at 7:44pm
April 6, 2008 at 7:44pm
Three AM is not the most popular time of day. We have given names to other hours, the witching hour – midnight. We have rush hour – which typically lasts more than an hour and starts at three, four or five pm depending on your particular schedule. Six Am is wake-up-and-go-to work time. Ten am is break time. Noon is lunch… you get the idea. Three AM is just one of those in-between hours that we often ignore. It comes slightly after two am when we close the bars and the drunks head home and slightly before four am which is the “time to make the donuts” hour. Yet three am is one of my favorite hours, or at least it used to be. Now, more often than not, I am sound asleep at this hour of the morning, or at least trying desperately to will myself to sleep, but there was a time when three am meant…

                   -a flashlight guided walk through my neighbors dew laden grass to the well at the back of his yard to get the bait for going fishing. It was the newest of hours. Quiet, even the dogs were asleep, and even though it was August the chill of autumn was evident.

                   -a chilled moonlit night sitting on a frozen lake watching the snow sparkle like diamonds as I wait for a fish to bite. The snow covered silence is broken only by the occasional hoot of an owl, the bark of a coyote, or once, the cry of a bobcat.

                   -lebanon bologna sandwiches with horseradish mustard and Swiss cheese, hot thermos of tea, an apple and a Hershey bar and the excitement of the first day of deer season as my dad and I got ready for the long drive to our hunting ground.

                   - A heavy eyed drive begun a couple of hours earlier approaching the Canadian border with the slumbering “B” driver in the seat next to me – the fellow fisherman who promised to keep me awake.

                   -A long unseen cast from a medium weight spinning rod of a silver and red Cotton Cordell plug and the slow retrieve as every nerve waited for the strike of a feeding striped bass. The fog swirling off the flowing water made me wonder if I was fishing in the River Styx.

                   -A quiet reverence around a dying campfire watching the glow of the embers as they fade off one by one into darkness. Wishing it would last just a little longer but glad that it didn’t as sleep overtakes me.

                   -A starlit walk down a wooded trail that ends in a meadow on a chill autumn night to watch a meteor shower.

                   -The lapping of waves against a granite shore providing the cadence for the dance of the northern lights as friends and I are treated to a sight that even today, these many years hence, cannot be put into words.

These are the things I associate with Three AM. I close my eyes and I can see, feel, smell and touch each one of these memories

March 30, 2008 at 9:29pm
March 30, 2008 at 9:29pm
         I grew up in a small town; on the last street in that town. When I walked out the backdoor of my house I was greeted by a carefully tended garden that sloped upward and ended where the toe of an abandoned railroad grade began. In my farthest memories I can still recall a train or two traveling that right-of-way, but for most of my youth it remained abandoned and forgotten. Up and over that railroad grade and in just a few more steps I was in the woods. It was here that I loved to go. Here where I played “Cowboys and Indians”, or “Army”, sometimes with friends, often by myself, using only my imagination. Was that a machine gun nest ahead? Sour apples became lethal grenades in my hands. More than once I threw myself on a “potato masher” to save the lives of my fellow soldiers.

         If I wasn’t playing in “my backyard’ (pretty much the whole mountain behind our street), I was looking forward to going fishing with Pop. Weekend trips included fishing rivers and lakes and ponds for just about anything that was in season. It got so that if we didn’t go fishing, something was wrong. Often it was some pressing family matter that the grownups had to take care of, or worse yet, something that involved my sister. You know what I’m talking about, sleepovers, birthday parties, that sort of thing. Girl Stuff.

         As I got older, “Army” gave way to just simple exploration of the world around me, Camping occurred, with both my family (sister included) and the Boy Scouts. Hunting was added to my list of outdoor activities and within a few more years my scope of outdoor friends was expanded beyond my family to include school friends and others I met along the way. Memories were formed of good times, sometimes exciting times, even reverent times, that have stayed with me down through the years. As my love of nature and the outdoors grew, my life became more complicated. First, there was high school and then college and finally the working world and eventually a family of my own.

         I mostly maintained equilibrium, at least through high school, balancing my outdoor moments with the other so-called necessary things in life. I always knew, deep within, that no matter how difficult or bad things got, all I needed to do was let that backdoor slam shut and within a few minutes I would be lost within the welcome wood beyond. There, peace would return to my soul. Peace as I have never known anywhere else.

         Somewhere between high school and college and finally work, the equilibrium started to dissolve. Because of my love for the natural world and probably because I was a child of the late sixties early seventies, I choose environmental protection as a career. What better way, I thought, to give back to the world that had healed a number of my childhood wounds and cradled my soul in tender loving hands.

          In retrospect, it was probably not a wise choice. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that I would do things differently if given the chance, just that I did not anticipate the outcome. You see as the equilibrium became unstable with college and the beginning of my career. It has now reached a cataclysmic level some 24 years later. For you see, in my attempt to protect and honor what had nurtured me, I have become lost to it, foreign, dare I say, even unwelcome. No longer can I walk within the woods and feel the peaceful embrace of my soul. No longer can I listen to the ripple of a stream as if it were a childhood lullaby. Each rustle of a leaf, each ebb and flow of a current simply serves to magnify the tension and stress of my chosen occupation, for I cannot separate them. They have become entwined, wrapping themselves together to the very essence of my being. The irony is not lost on me.

         Others that I work with do not seem to have this problem. Do not seem to struggle with separating their livelihood from their relaxation. I, for whatever reason, am not so fortunate and it saddens me. Or perhaps they are just better at hiding it. Or maybe they know some secret I don’t. Or maybe it’s just a job to them. Regardless of the answer for them, for me at least, my path has left a void within my soul, an ever-expanding black hole that threatens to suck down all that I know as “me”.

         My only hope is that when I retire, I can put behind the struggles of a thirty-five year, sometimes Don Quixote like, career and find the peace of so long ago. I hope, one day, to stand in the wood, with the early morning sun filtering through the canopy, knowing that I have fought the good fight, asking forgiveness for my many failures, and to feel my soul cradled in tender loving hands once more.

March 2, 2008 at 9:01pm
March 2, 2008 at 9:01pm
         Just last week I was reminded of an often-overlooked natural phenomenon. I don’t recollect the exact conversation at the moment but I made a mental note to bring everyone up to speed at the first opportunity.

         I can recall in my youth, my early youth that is, going with my Dad to fish for bluegills at a local lake called Miller’s Pond. We would row our boat across the lake to a shallow cove where the water lilies covered most of the surface, leaving just pockets of open water in which to fish. Here we would plop, within feet of the boat, our worm laden hooks and bobbers in search of a battle royal with a half pound bluegill or sunfish or whatever other denizen of the deep we could entice to swallow our annelidic offering.

         There were times when it was difficult to keep our worms in the water as they were often attacked simultaneously in a piranha like fashion. And there were other times when the bait went unnoticed and was simply followed to the surface by a lazily swimming turtle who eyed us and our boat with a somewhat bemused eye as they slowly sank back into the lily shadowed abyss from whence they had risen. Often, it was during times such as these, when the fishing was slow and the opportunity to let your thoughts drift was high, that we would observe small bubbles of gas rising periodically to the surface of Miller’s Pond, rising in the same, somewhat lazily fashion that the turtles did.

         Having been the willing participant of many a boyhood swim and the sometimes-unwilling participant (victim) of many a boyhood bath I was quick to recognize these bubbles as …ahem…farts. The question then became, where did the farts come from? Since the most obvious culprit was the bemused turtle, who’s lazily attitude the farts much mimiced, it became obvious to me that I was observing the released of the gastrointestinal workings of a turtle. And upon rendering such an epoch of information to my Dad and eventually my childhood friends I placed all the turtle farts we have observed since in the category of hoo-hum, for now that we know what they are they are not nearly as interesting.

         It was years later that the phenomenon of beer bubbles caught my attention. On one of my early trips to the glacial lakes of Canada I was quick to observe from their granite shores the rise of myriad bubbles from their depths. Since, I rarely saw a turtle in Canada, and since every time I saw the bubbles they were within the approximate geographic location of one of my camp buddies who happened to be lazily swimming in much the same way as the turtles of Miller’s Pond and…since in every single case, the lazily swimming buddy was holding a cold bottle of beer, I quickly surmised, using my finely honed Miller Pond deductive reasoning, that I was witness to the little known wonder of the natural world – beer bubbles.

         To further determine if my line of reasoning was correct I subjected myself to the same conditions as my camp buddies and found, that when I too was swimming lazily in the granite shored glacial lake, sipping on a cold Canadian brew, beer bubbles were observed to form in my approximate geographic location.

         Alas, as with the turtle farts of my youth, once identified, beer bubbles also lost much of my interest, but fear not, for as any good scientist will tell you there are numerous questions in the Universe that still need to be answered and of late, I have noticed a similar occurrence happening in the manure pits of local farms, and I am much perplexed, for there is neither a beer nor a turtle for as far as the finely honed Miller’s pond deductive eye can see.
February 26, 2008 at 8:56pm
February 26, 2008 at 8:56pm
         I expect you are thinking that you are about to embark upon a reading of another diatribe espousing the evils of global warming. Well…you are not. You see in my job I deal with all sorts of facts and figures and some, a very few, find their way into that part of my brain where things are folded over upon themselves and only the brave dare peek inside and then only at the risk of suffering from severe madness the likes of which has not been seen on this planet since…well for a very long time.

         Such was the case yesterday as I sat reading at my desk. Did you know that in Pennsylvania the average amount of water used per person in 1900 was five gallons per day and that today it is 65 gallons? This factoid, like a shiny silver ball, ricocheted of the brightly lit bumpers of my pinball machine mind and dropped effortlessly into the hole marked “triple points.”

         Suddenly it all became clear to me. We use a lot of water and while a portion of it is deemed “surface water”, lakes and streams, a good portion of it is extracted from deep within the earth and has earned, rightly or wrongly, the moniker “ground water” It is this ground water that I believe requires closer examination.

         We are pumping far more of it today than ever before. Take those Pennsylvania figures and extrapolate them to all the industrialized nations of the world and that is a very large amount of water. Where does it go? I can tell you, very little, if any of it, actually makes it back to its peaceful existence underground from where we so rudely removed it. Groundwater regenerates in geologic time. We pump it out in human time. Some of it may evaporate and form into clouds and return to the surface of the planet, but that, along with the vast majority of ground water eventually makes its way to the streams and rivers and they eventually make their way to the oceans of the planet. And that, my friend, is what is responsible for the slow rise of the oceans. We are simply pumping too much groundwater into them.

         So, what can we do? Can we pump it back underground? Not likely. It moves in one direction a lot easier than the other. Can we use less? Sure, but I don’t believe conservation will stem the tide, unless we once again learn to live on a five gallons of water a day. That would necessitate us going back to outhouses, weekly baths in the communal tub and using the alley between the horse barn and the pigsty to pee. (Don’t ask).

         But wait! The shiny silver ball has been ejected and once more bounces from bumper to flipper and back again until it once again gets caught in a magnetic “holding position”.

         If we’ve pumped out all this water and it has raised the ocean level, we are faced with the undeniable fact that water weighs. It is heavy. So. By shifting all this “water weight” from its peaceful slumber beneath the continents to the oceans we have caused two things, less weight on the tectonic plates under the continents has caused them to rise. More weight on the tectonic plates beneath the ocean has caused them to compress. Translation? Pumping groundwater is responsible for: A) a rise in ocean levels and B) earthquakes and volcanoes.

         Zing! There goes that dang silver ball again!. Wait, it’s a double flipper save! And it shoots straight into the free game Bonus slide! Dang I’m good!

         We’ve already established that groundwater causes the oceans to rise, volcanoes to erupt and volcanoes.. But there is something else. Shifting all that weight is having a profound effect on the planetary wobble. You know about the planetary wobble, don’t you? No? Google it. Suffice it to say that by shifting these large volumes of water around and redistributing the “water weight” we are causing an increase in the planetary wobble. Like an unstable gyroscope, the wobble will cause an increasingly elongated planetary orbit until at some point the planet overcomes its own gravitational and centrifugal pull. At that point we shall simply slip out of orbit and begin our own cosmic pinball ride.

         The good news? We won’t have to worry about shooting down any more satellites. We’ll probably plow right through them on our way out of this universal pinball machine.

         The bad news? There is no free game.

         Makes you think twice about turning on the faucet, doesn’t it?

         We now return you to your regularly scheduled program.

          “Joe, it’s time for your medication.”

          “Oh, I love it when happy time gets here.”

February 13, 2008 at 9:37am
February 13, 2008 at 9:37am
         With all those memories and the accumulated influence of those experiences upon my life I sit here, scratching my head, wondering what happened.

         It is o course, extremely easy to point a finger at the Game Commission and blame them for the evolution of hunting in Pennsylvania. And there is no lack of people out there that have done just that. For my own part, I believe a certain amount of responsibility does lie at their feet, but that being said, I believe there is enough blame (and I’m not sure blame is the right word. Perhaps responsibility would be better) to go around. I must admit that because of my education and chosen career (environmental protection) it is extremely difficult for me to separate my traditional hunting upbringing with my understanding and desire to have a balanced environment. It truly is a conundrum. One part of me wants to “fill the freezer” with tasty venison and the other has walked in the forests of Pennsylvania and marveled at the lack of understory, and still another part of me has struggled with trying to get forests to regenerate on reclaimed surface mines where the tree seedling mortality was 80% because of deer browse.

         So, I waffle. And when I hunt (which isn’t often anymore) I feel the same frustration I felt at twelve when I could only hunt the two Saturdays of “buck season.” I don’t want to feel that frustration. I don’t want to come home at the end of the day with nothing to show for it but sore feet and the memories of whatever I happened to see that particular day. We are quick to tout the “hunting experience as being more than just the killing of an animal, but if I am to be truthful, even today, at 51 that killing of the animal is still a large part of my “hunting experience” and to judge from the outpouring of emotion against the Game commission, I am not alone in this sentiment.

         With each passing season I struggle more and more. I see land posted that was always open to hunting. I feel crowded when I go to public lands where I was used to not seeing another hunter for most of the fall archery season. Add into that, the fact that because of work I have relocated to Harrisburg, a decidedly urban area if there ever was one, for someone that is used to towns with populations less than 5000, and the frustration mounts.

         Today, it’s all about land being posted and leased, clubs and permission, landowner liability, urban and suburban expansion, slob hunters and anti hunters. We harvest deer instead of kill them. We move farther and farther away from the hunting of my youth to what, I’m not quite sure. Today we have wildlife management units and more seasons than I count. Today, even if I saw a deer or a turkey, or a pheasant, I would be hesitant to pull the trigger without consulting my Pennsylvania Game Commission rulebook. The rule book, by the way, has “evolved from a handy dandy little booklet that you could carry next to your handkerchief in your hip pocket to a full blown magazine that I can’t even fit in the glove compartment of my car.

         I look backward to the generations of hunters in my family, now gone, and I see them standing in faded Woolrich or tattered canvas, dogs running between their legs, carefully cradling the one, all purpose, weapon they could afford to purchase, most likely a double barrel shotgun, and I see them looking down at us, at me, shaking their collective heads in sadness, and wondering where everything went wrong.

         Will I continue to hunt? Yes, for the foreseeable future. But for the first time in my life, since I was twelve, I’m not sure I enjoy it enough to overcome the frustrations. And…I always said, when it was no longer fun I would stop. I wonder if I am not alone. I suspect I am not. The number of hunters goes down annually. With each new No Trespassing sign, with each new confusing “rule” the hunting community shrinks and I get another day closer to joining the ranks of hunters who came before, wondering where everything went wrong and wishing it was long ago, when I was little...

January 23, 2008 at 11:40am
January 23, 2008 at 11:40am
         …scratch that. Long ago when I was young (I was never little) hunting, in Pennsylvania, was different. I can still remember my excitement as a child, walking home from school and seeing the various deer hanging from trees, ladders and garage rafters, sporting racks of all shapes and sizes. Somewhere there is a photo of me sitting between the huge (for a five year old) antlers of a buck killed by one of our neighbor’s sons. I can still close my eyes and see my Dad, dressed in his traditional red plaid Woolrich hunting pants and coat walking out the back door of the house carrying his trusty 30-30 Marlin in pursuit of whitetail deer, or, even earlier in the year, dressed in canvas pants and coat, in pursuit of cottontails and grouse, the beagles running excitedly ahead of him. It was an exciting time. It was a different time. It was a time in my life when the anticipation of fall for hunting wove magically into the excitement of Christmas, and back again to the mystical winter hunting of snowshoe hares. And I hadn’t even picked up a gun yet.

         When I was twelve and legally able to hunt, that excitement had become almost unbearable. This was before the advent of hunter education so my safe gun handling training and hunting ethics training came at the hands of my father, my uncle, my cousin and various hunting buddy neighbors. I could not have had better teachers. We hunted public land. We hunted private land. We hunted land that we had no idea who owned. It was an unwritten rule that if the land wasn’t posted, you could hunt it.

         I can remember my first hunt with a borrowed 410 shotgun, where after seven shots I managed to bag my first game, the wily gray squirrel. I remember numerous rabbit chases, both with and without dogs. I remember sore feet and wet smelly dogs. I remember lovely frost covered mornings and laughter at shots missed or shots made. I remember the first time, at age thirteen, pulling the trigger on a twelve-gauge shotgun and I remember the excitement of the gift of my first deer rifle, a Remington 35.

         But as much fun as small game season was, it was merely the practice round, the prelude to deer season. Back then, deer season took two forms, two weeks of buck season, followed by two or three days of doe season. For buck season, if it had antlers, you shot it. For me, deer season amounted to only two days. Both Saturdays of buck season, for unlike many of my fellow adolescent hunters my parents did not believe hunting was a reason to take a day off from school or work. The schools at that time agreed with him, so I had the misfortune of being one of the only boys of legal hunting age that was actually in school on the first day of “buck season”. So along with the excitement I remember the frustration and disappointment. For the first six years that I hunted deer I never fired a shot, except at the practice range. I never even saw a buck in season, except hung in someone’s backyard or strapped to a vehicle. I endured the schoolyard tales of hunting success from those that had been allowed to play hooky, aptly called the deer flu, and I posed for photos with someone else’s deer.

         If the truth is told, I very nearly gave up hunting at that point. For even though I was successful at small game hunting, that all-important set of antlers that I could claim as my own eluded me. I looked often at the one and only six point rack that hung at our home, the one and only buck my Dad had shot up to that time. It hung next to the head of a very respectable walleye, the victim of a home taxidermy experiment. In years to come I would surpass both the six point and the walleye, but at the time each was a lofty goal, an unachievable goal, in my mind. At the time I didn’t give up hunting because I didn’t want to disappoint my Dad. For some reason I felt I had to hunt. It was part of who we were. There was of course, the peer pressure thing, and in retrospect, that also played an important part in my continue to hunt, frustrated as I was. There was also something else, something inside of me, growing; a restlessness that could only be calmed by spending time in the woods, on a river or a lake. I didn’t know it then, but I know it now, I was, quite simply, falling in love with the natural world.

         I remember cold wet miserable days. I remember knee deep snows and stuck vehicles and ice-cold streams too deep for my boots, which I only found out the hard way. I remember climbing mountains and watching sunrises and sunsets and wondering if I would make it back to the car before it became too dark to see. I remember devouring each and every hunting magazine I could lay my hands on, the most important being, of course, Outdoor Life. That magazine took me on more successful hunts for all sorts of wild game across North America and beyond. It was the young unsuccessful hunter’s salve, the medicinal ointment for the aches and pains, the frustration, the miserable weather and the lack of success. And, most importantly it offered up the chance, through its advertisers, to anyone, with the desire and the money, to pursue these very same animals in far away exotic places, such as British Columbia and Alaska. There was even a place in Pennsylvania where I could hunt wild boar! And so I dreamed. One day I would be a Big Game Hunter and travel the world matching wits with all sorts of animals.

         As I grew older and more independent I added weapons and skills to my repertoire. I became a bowhunter. I learned to hunt doves and I chased turkeys through the hollows of northeastern PA but the antlered whitetail continued to elude me. I began to take the first day of buck season off from school or work and I started to hunt doe. Soon I was bringing home venison on a regular basis, but never the antlered variety. Sure, I started to see bucks in season and I even shot at a couple. The operative part of that of course is “shot at” I marveled at the fact that when you looked at the hunting season and fishing season calendars there was always something “in season” throughout the year. I attempted to utilize each and every one of those days.The outdoors was one of the few places I actually felt at peace.

         As years went by, I started to develop my own set of hunting ethics. It was a blend, a mixture of the influence of other hunters from my youth, the effects of my education (I pursued a career in environmental protection) and my own thoughts and opinions. It no longer became important to me to “harvest” an antlered deer. The dream of Big Game Hunter was relinquished to fantasy and I began to hunt for my own enjoyment and relaxation, and I counted each successful hunt as simply a day spent a field rather than by the meat in the freezer or the antlers on the wall. I had become comfortable, relaxed and felt I no longer needed to prove to anyone, myself included, my prowess in the outdoors.
         But today, some 30 years after I first stepped into the woods with a gun, I find myself rethinking, questioning, why I am out there, and the future of hunting in Pennsylvania.

(To be continued)

August 17, 2007 at 12:51pm
August 17, 2007 at 12:51pm
         The headlights pierced the patchwork of early morning fog as I slowly turned from the main highway onto the gravel road that would lead me to the boat launch. I glanced at the figure sitting next to me. Still sleeping, I thought and smiled to myself thinking back to a long, long time ago when our positions would be reversed and I would be the one dozing for this early morning ride. The headlights illuminated the paved ramp and the murky, fog shrouded water beyond. In the back of my mind I could not help but compare the image to what the mythological River Styx must look like. Apprehensively I waited for the boatman. He never appeared.

         The figure next to me stirred. “Are we there, already?”

          “Yep,” I replied. “Time to catch some fish.”

         Opening the door of the truck I stepped out into the chill of the early autumn air. I knew that by midmorning, after the sun had cleared the ridge to the east and burned off the fog it would begin to warm, but right now, I felt the chill in my stiffened joints. I heard the passenger door open.

          “Stay in the truck, Pop, where’s it warm, until I get the boat ready to launch.”

          I looked at the grizzled face of my father. The stubble of a beard on an unshaven face, the white eyebrows, and the ever-present blue eyes, looked back. He pulled the door closed and settled back in the seat.

          “Are you sure you want to do this?” I asked. “We could wait until later when it gets warmer,” feeling the arthritic ache in my fifty year old joints and wondering how it must feel in his ninety-two year old ones.

          “Yep,” he replied. “The fish bite best at first light.”

         I closed the door and started the routine of getting the boat ready to launch. Almost as reflex I went through the steps, drain plug in the stern, disconnect the trailer lights, put the cooler and the rods in the boat…and the bait. Don’t forget the bait. I grinned to myself, thinking back to a trip many years ago, where we made the hour drive to the river and left the bait sitting on the back porch at home. I heard the window in the truck go down and as if he was reading my mind, Pop asked, “Did you remember the bait?”

          “Yep,” I replied, chuckling. And to beat him to his next question I added, “and the lunch too” I couldn’t see his face in the dark, but I knew he was grinning and having the same memory I was.

         When everything was ready in the boat I pulled a stepladder from the bed of the truck and told Pop it was time to go fishing. The passenger door opened and slowly he swung his legs to the ground and stood up. Each move had the slow motion and self-determination of an astronaut changing a solar panel in space. When he had gotten himself oriented he let go of the door and tottered back to me. I watched him closely, like a parent watching their newborn taking their first steps. When he reached me he said, “doesn’t move as well as it used to, boy.”

          “No Pop, “ I replied,” but look at it this way, it beats the alternative.” We both smiled and laughed. I helped him into his lifejacket and he climbed the ladder and got into the boat. When I made sure he was sitting, I tossed the ladder back in the truck and backed the trailer into the water. The boat floated free and I used the bowline to pull it up onto the shore and told Pop to stay sitting while I parked the truck.

         Walking back down to the launch ramp, the sun’s glow was just beginning to peak over the mountain. Pop was already putting the rods together and getting ready to fish. I paused, still in the shadows, burning the picture into my mind, soaking up every detail, from the swirling water to the little wisps of fog that floated ghost like across its surface; The small flannel shirt clad man in the front of the boat holding up the fishing rod and letting it balance in his arthritic hand; the gently lapping waves at the side of the boat and the sound of a red-winged blackbird greeting the new day etched themselves in my brain. Even the smell, that freshwater river smell, that new morning smell, intertwined with the odor of damp earth and became part of the memory.

         The sound of another car leaving the highway and coming down the graveled road roused me from my trance. I hurriedly walked down to the boat and stepped into the stern.

         Pop always had the knack to find fish. He could read the river like no one I’ve ever known and I wondered if he still could after all these years. Normally we’d fish bass at this time of year but he said he wanted to go for catfish. I knew why. He didn’t think he could take the continual casting that bass required so he opted for something that was more of a waiting game. Trouble is he traded casting for a situation where he could end up fighting a much larger fish. There were some mighty big cats in this river. “Where shall we head to, Pop?’ I asked, curious as to what his response might be.

          “Head upstream and see if you can find the big ledge.” He replied. “Then head for the far shore to where the sand bar comes out. There should be a good eddy there and some deep water. We’ll try our luck there.”

          I knew it had been at least twenty years since either one of us had been on the river and rivers do change, but I said nothing and headed upstream to where I figured the ledge should be. Slowly it came into view, not much changed from how I remembered it. Pop pointed toward the far shore and I dutifully swung the boat in that direction. I watched as he scanned the shore, first sending me downstream and then back up. At one point he attempted to stand to get a better view but thought better of it and sat back down quickly. He studied the water until he finally motioned for me to shut off the motor and drop the anchor. As the anchor rope tightened and the boat swung into the current I could see he had picked a spot that put us right on the edge of an eddy. I couldn’t see any evidence of the sand bar anymore but judging by the amount of anchor rope I let out, Pop had found the deep water. Amazing, I thought. After all this time and he can still read the river. As if he read my mind he turned in his chair and grinned. “The water talks to you, if you know how to listen. Give me some bait, will ya? Time’s a wastin”

          I popped the lid off the cooler and tossed him a can of bait. I watched as he rolled it over in his hand, inspecting it, thinking no doubt of the first time we used canned oyster’s for catfish bait. They were cheap then. We made oyster stew often and the cupboard always had several cans in it. One spring day in our hurry to get to the river Pop grabbed the canned oysters by mistake when he was reaching for the sardines for our lunch. The catfish were biting fast and furious that day and it wasn’t long before we ran out of stinkbait. Not wanting to go home we used the only thing we had left, the oysters. They worked beyond our wildest dreams. We don’t know why. We suspect it was because they had never smelled oysters before. The catfish were used to all the other baits. This was something new. We used them ever since and they never failed us.

          I heard the sound of the can opening and watched as Pop pulled an oyster out and placed it on the hook. Grinning he looked at me and asked, “Do you remember what you called this?”

          Laughing, I replied. “Sure do, Pop. I called it booger fishing.” We both laughed and I watched as he made his first cast of the morning. The long graceful arc of the line and the accuracy of the cast told me he hadn’t forgotten a thing about fishing. Moments later, the line tightened and Pop set the hook. I watched, landing net in hand, as he struggled to bring the cat up to the boat.

          For a brief time, an all too brief time, the world stopped and I was looking at a fifty year old man through the eyes of a ten year old. I wiped the tears from my face and landed the fish. I knew it was going to be a fine day of booger fishing.

Note to the reader: My dad is ninety-two and I’ve tried a number of times to get him to go fishing again. He won’t go, so I fish with him in my mind.

August 3, 2007 at 10:28am
August 3, 2007 at 10:28am

One grenade will get you all!”

The words formed on my lips automatically. They’ve done that for a number of years. I speak them now without even really thinking, whenever I see a group of people standing together in close proximity to one another and especially when that group is standing in my way. I first heard the phrase from my dad and I’m sure he first heard it from his Sergeant. When I use it today, people chuckle politely, move out of the way and resume their conversation when I’ve passed. The looks on their faces tell me they have no idea what it means.

When my dad heard it, it was a matter of life or death. They were talking actual hand grenades. And if you were bunched too closely together when the enemy lobbed one in your direction…well…you get the idea.

Self-preservation is the greatest motivational speaker I know.

It’s funny, the different sayings we learn as we grow up and continue to use. When “Spread out!” forms on my lips it is more often than not directed at a group of employees standing around a water cooler having a leisurely conversation, and the “hand grenade’ in question is the first member of management that stumbles upon them…hey, that’s me!

I’ve learned a lot of sayings over the years from my dad.

“Never come out of the woods the same way you go in.”

I suspect this also had its origin in the military. Using the same path twice could be an invitation to an untimely demise. My dad’s explanation? If you come out the same way you went in, you’ll never learn anything new. My dad’s a big proponent (thankfully) of learning new things.

“Don’t quit the job you have, until you have another job.”

Seems like common sense, doesn’t it? After all, you do have to eat. No job equates to no money. No money equates to no food and no roof over your head. You’d be surprised at the number of times I’ve seen this particular piece of advice not followed. Seems like a no-brainer to me.

“ If you can’t get up in the morning and get to work, it’s time to start looking for another job.”

At first glance you’re thinking, “Yeah, cause you’re going to get your butt fired for not showing up at work.” But, it goes deeper than that. Example: I drove six hours last night as part of work. Got into my house at 11PM, dog tired (My day started at 6AM). I told myself it would be okay to sleep in a little this morning before I go to the office. (There would be nobody the wiser, except me.) Nope, couldn’t do it. Up, ready to go, arrived on time, eager to get to work. If you can’t do that, maybe the job you have isn’t right for you. That’s what my dad’s saying.

“Always leave the other guy owing you.”

Simple. If you’re doing a job for someone, give them more than what they paid for. Go the extra mile. Give them 110 percent. Works well in your personal life, too.

I’ve added a few sayings of my own over the years.

My personal favorite has to do with work.

“Erosion is a natural process. But then again, so is death. It is not in your best interest to accelerate either.”

For those, non-soil, non-erosion, oriented people out there, accelerated erosion is a no-no.

“When faced with a situation that requires you to make a decision, the absolute worst decision you can make is no decision at all.”

Seems self-explanatory to me.

At the moment those are all (almost) the sayings that I can think of. I’m sure after I post this I’ll remember some more, but these will suffice for now.

There is one more saying my dad handed down to me. It’s one that he and I have uttered together on more occasions then I care to admit, and one that I’ve used often on my own. It has to do with screwing up, not seeing the obvious, having it become abundantly clear that in the situation you’re in you may not be the brightest bulb in the pack. When that happens, just do what my dad and I do. Shrug your shoulders, smile and say,

“No sense in being stupid if you don’t show it.”

Think about it.

June 24, 2007 at 5:29pm
June 24, 2007 at 5:29pm
Occasionally things get a little cluttered in my attic. I’m not talking about the attic of the house I live in. Come to think of it, the place I live in doesn’t have an attic…well actually it does…sort of…but that’s neither here nor there. The attic I’m referring to is the one between my ears. I know when it’s getting cluttered. I’ll be going along, minding my own business, when all of a sudden these little dust bunny like thoughts will come spilling out of my subconscious (unconscious?) and interrupt my current train of conscious thought. So, occasionally I try to sweep out the attic. Here’s what has gathered so far.

A good steak is difficult to find. A good steak should stand on it’s own. There’s no need to add seasoning to a good steak. It should be flavorful in and of its own accord. If you have to ask for the A-1, it’s not a good steak.

Corn is best eaten on the cob, and what’s with all this corn-shucking going on in the supermarket? Don’t people realize that shucked corn dries out faster? Keep the husk on until right before you drop it in the pot of boiling water, people.

As a writer, names have always been my downfall. I struggle every time I have to come up with one. Now I have a name and no story. The name? Longfellow Sneede. I suspect its origins are in the name Lemony Snicket, but I like the name. I just can’t come up with a story to use it in ...yet.

I’ve discovered how Weight Watcher’s works. They charge you 39 bucks a month and try to sell you all their weight loss products. This leaves no money to buy groceries. And speaking of WW, why are they always located next to restaurants? The one I attend is next to a Chinese buffet.

Note to self: Wipe duck sauce from beard before going to WW meeting and don’t order take out on the cell halfway through the meeting. For some reason people get upset with that.

College Interns are getting younger. That, or I’m getting older. Nope, definitely the former.

People seem to always be in a hurry to get to the next traffic light. Why?

People can’t seem to understand why they get tickets for running red lights. Why?

There is this strange cult that appears to be growing exponentially daily. It involves the worship of cell phones. Some doctors believe it is an addiction. I believe it’s a cult.

Note to Self. Charge battery in cell that hasn’t been used in six months. Where’d I put it anyhow?

Apparently Prognosticators predict the world is going to end on Dec 21st 2012. My question is, what’s going to take its place? And am I invited?

And Finally,

Nest time I should use the industrial strength shopvac to clean out the attic. Put the hose to my ear and flip the switch. I’ll never feel a thing.

June 23, 2007 at 5:04pm
June 23, 2007 at 5:04pm

         There comes a point in our lives when we begin to assess whether we have had any value, any impact on the world around us. Typically it is assumed that this happens when one turns fifty. Fifty is the halfway point (more like two thirds, actually). It is the age where we are given over to examining our lives, evaluating our accomplishments, wondering if there is still enough time to make our mark. Will we be remembered when we are gone?

         Let's face it, for most of us there will not be any monuments with our names, no buildings, no stadiums, no endowments, or any other accoutrements that society seems to use to judge the value, the worth of one's life or one's accomplishments. Fifty years from now, no one will open a history book and read about the often mundane everyday lives that most of us live. What impact does a single human being have during his life on the planet? What is the legacy that is left behind? Is it necessary to be famous, or infamous, to leave a mark?

         So at fifty, or somewhere there about, you begin to question the value of your life. (I know, I turned fifty a year ago). I don't think it stops there, though. I think it is a question that is always in the back of your mind, a question that will largely go unanswered. Yes, I must admit that I routinely Google my name to see how many times I show up on the Internet. It is, after all, a measure of fame. If you're interested, I fall somewhere between Britney Spears and a dog named Bo. I'm much closer to the Bo end, and in retrospect, I'm thankful for that.

         This weekend while visiting my folks I looked at my 92 year old father and my 83-year-old mother and wondered, what legacy will they leave behind? Of course, I immediately went to, well, they have two children and four grandchildren and soon to be one great grandchild. But that wasn't the answer I was looking for. That's not a legacy, that's procreation, that's genealogy. What, I wondered, was the impact of their lives on the world around them?

         It came to me as I sat in a restaurant last night, returning from a retirement luncheon for two friends of mine, where kudos and reminiscing were the order of the day. It happened in a small restaurant, in the middle of a thunderstorm, where I watched the torrential rain hitting the pavement and running off into some stormwater sewer heading for a river. My mind immediately went to my job and I wondered what the impact of this storm was, what environmental harm, what environmental good, was it causing? What controls were in place to protect the river and a myriad of other questions entered my mind, and that's when I felt it. My parent's hands were guiding me. Everything I do to try and protect the environment, they are right there with me. Their unseen hands are there. They provided knowledge and guidance and support. They provided an atmosphere that allowed me to grow and to become my own man. Every time I make a decision, they are part of that decision. Every interaction I have with another person, professionally or personally, their hands are there, influencing, guiding. And I wondered, just where does that end? Or does it never end? Is the guidance and knowledge and support I feel from them, passed down from their parents, or is it simply a roll of the genetic dice?

         And then I thought of my sister and how she chose a career in Nursing and has devoted her whole life to helping and healing people, much as I have tried to do with the small part of the planet I occupy. How far out does the influence of my parent's hands extend? Will it end one day? I think not. I think it is the proverbial pebble in a pond, rippling outward, ever outward, ever expanding. What I do was influenced by my parents, and what I do, will influence someone else, and so on, and so on.

         It is not a legacy written down in history books. It is not a legacy of monuments, buildings, stadiums or bridges. It is not a legacy of Google hits. It is far greater than that. It is a legacy of life, of beliefs, of commitment and of soul. It is a legacy of giving, not expecting anything in turn. It is a legacy of inner peace, of being comfortable with who you are and what you do. It is a legacy of living breathing monuments. Who could ask for anything more than that?

April 24, 2007 at 8:12pm
April 24, 2007 at 8:12pm
         Someone stuck a head in the door. He didn’t remember who it was. The words, “there’s been another school shooting,” caused him to stop what he was doing and flip up MSNBC on the PC. He scanned the headlines, two deaths, Virginia Tech; the last two words caused him to glance down the hall towards his boss’s office. He could see him there, sitting at his desk, the office phone to one ear, and his cell to another. His son went to Virginia Tech, an engineering student, just like his dad. Other people knew also. They glanced through the glass watching him for some sort of sign. Wanting to know, but not wanting to know. Hoping, but afraid to hope also.

         MSNBC updated the story, more shootings, more deaths, in an engineering building across campus. He watched his friend, his boss; the phones never left his hand. Messages were starting to pile up, tacked to his boss’s door by a magnet. The emotion within lay buried as he tried to make sense of what was happening, tried to think everything would be all right. He wasn't so sure.

         Eventually, the numbers stopped rising. Eventually his boss heard the voice he wanted to hear. A collective sigh escaped as everyone got back to the business at hand. Still the story remained, sensationalized by a media prone to such actions to satisfy the needs of a society eager for sensationalism. He straed at the computer, unable to concentrate.

         He watched as his boss returned to work. He wondered why. He knew why. He felt why. He wondered why it couldn’t have been different? He knew it could have. He was proof of that…at least partially anyway. He knew some of the anger, some of the frustration, some of the depression.

         It was a good school, a small school, a college prep school, not far from his home, but far enough that he had to stay there, like so many others. It was a church run boarding school.

         He wouldn’t be there except for his grades. He was not a member of the privileged class. He was a scholarship student. He worked in the kitchen, a member of the servant class. The school wasn’t responsible for how he felt, still it did little to change it. Even if they had, he would have refused the help. His problems started long before. Teased in the elementary school yard, clumsy, inept, ridiculed for size and a disease he didn’t know existed. He became outcast, except for a few friends, and friends were not something he would keep close for a long time. High school would be different he thought, a new start, new friends, new beginnings…but it was just more of the same. He grew. He became bigger than his classmates and the bullied became a strange cross of bully and bullied. He used his size to protect and to intimidate, never knowing the difference…or caring.

         He was smart. At least that’s what they told him. He doubted it. He doubted a lot of things. He doubted the medication he took helped him so he stopped taking it. He wasn’t happy. He was sad. He was depressed, before he even knew what the word meant. He retreated to books, to fantasy worlds, to places where in his mind he could convince himself he was “normal”; convince himself that he was worthwhile, that he was the hero come to save the damsel in distress. It never lasted long. They still teased, they still laughed, they still tormented. And the anger grew.

         He had violent thoughts, not against other people, just himself. He thought of disappearing, running away, living off the land. He thought of suicide. He kept it mostly within, not showing his anger, his depression, and his fear… ANd inside, he was dying. It was a slow torturous death. It was a never ending spiral of torment.

         The school library was a sanctuary, a place where the laughter was silent, and the ridicule unspoken. It was located in the basement of the administration building. The tables there were round and like Camelot, he liked to think, everyone had the same right to speak or not speak there. One day, hiding in his sanctuary, he found himself alone at a table by the door. Most of the tables were empty. The library was not a popular place for the popular student. A girl walked in and sat across from him. He attempted to ignore her. He knew her name. It was Cindy. She was a year behind him in school. He thought she was pretty.he liked her smile. They sat there, each engrossed in whatever particular assignment they had been working on at the moment. After a little time had passed Cindy wrote something on a piece of paper and slid it across the table towards him. He looked at her. She turned her eyes away. He reached out an opened the note and read what it said. Glancing over at her, he shrugged his shoulders and tucked the note inside his book. They went back to work.

         Some changes in life are instantaneous. Some are brought on by crisis and some by sheer chance. Some are like tiny seeds, planted carefully, allowed to nurture, allowed to grow. Someday they will grow to be mighty and strong, some day the seed of change will have accomplished its mission. Such was this change. Such were the words written on the note.

         He developed a crush on Cindy and imagined a great life for the two of them. She in turn, had love for another, his best friend at school, one of his only friends at achool. His anger, his hurt, his depression continued. The downward spiral continued. No one seemed to notice. No one seemed to care. He felt the world closing in. He was certain he could never be happy. He was certain he was doomed to failure, doomed to live life alone. Why had he been brought into this world he often wondered? Why could he not find the happiness that so eluded him?

         The note and the words were always in the back of his mind as he stumbled forward in life. Battered and bruised he hung on. From time to time he made an effort to change things around, only to be beaten back, as he knew he would. Years went by and his friends came and went. New ones replaced old ones and he was not very good at keeping in touch. High school was replaced by college. College was replaced by work. Work was replaced by a career. The note was always there, in the back of his mind, growing, teaching, nurturing. For the longest time he wasn't even aware of it.

         He watched the relief on his boss's face as he got the good news from Virginia Tech. He thought of his wife and sons, his family and his success, and yes, his failures. He thought how different it could have been if it hadn’t been for the note. He stared at the story erupting on the computer before him and he wondered, he wondered if things might have been different if somewhere, someplace, sometime, someone had taken a few minutes to scribble a few words on a piece of paper and slide them across the table. If just one person had smiled, instead of teased, ridiculed and bullied. WHat might have been?

         The paper has long since crumbled into dust, but the words and the handwriting are etched indelibly on his mind. He need only close his eyes and he is back in that library, unfolding a piece of paper and reading,

          “Why don’t you ever smile?”

         He doesn’t know where Cindy is today. He imagines her happy, married, maybe with children of her own. He hopes the best for her. He wishes he could tell her what a difference the note has made all these years later. He wishes he could let her know that he is happy now and that he smiles every day.

April 15, 2007 at 7:57pm
April 15, 2007 at 7:57pm
Today in the Parade section of the newspaper they did one of their periodic listings of occupations and salaries. I am drawn to that page, as I’m sure many are, with one thought in mind. How does my salary stack up against all the others? As always, I am fascinated with how little some people make for the job that they do and how much some people make for the job that they do. It leaves me wondering just where, as a society, our priorities lie. It makes me wonder if any of us truly appreciate what we have here in this country and if we really know the sacrifices that those before us made and that some are still making even today so that we may enjoy the prosperity that we do. Once in a great while you come across a story that really hits home and yesterday, for me, was one such time, and the storyteller was my mother.

We had just finished watching a PBS documentary on anthracite mining in Pennsylvania at the turn of the century. (1900) Mining runs deep in the veins (so to speak) of our family on both sides and my mom made the comment about how she remembered living through all that. I knew what she meant but jokingly I said, “Mom, you didn’t live through that, you weren’t born until 1924.” She gave me a good-natured scowl, waved her hand to dismiss me and said, “You know what I mean.” I laughed. Then she said. “Did I ever tell you the story about when my mother threw me in the river?”

Now, with an 83 year old mother and a 92 year old dad I am accustomed to hearing the same story more than once, but this was one I either hadn’t heard, or it escaped my memory, so I said, “no’, and settled in to hear what I assumed would be an amusing tale from my mothers childhood.

In my mom’s words, as best as I can remember them.


         “It was during the depression and nobody had any work. The mines were shut down, everything was shut down, and people were starving. Up town, they came to hand out food to the needy, so my mother and I walked all the way up town (about three miles one way) one day to get some food. We stood in a long line waiting our turn to get food from the back of the truck and when we made it up to the truck the man handing out the food asked my mother how many children she had. She replied, just one, pointing at me. He then asked her to wait over at the side until they had finished taking care of the families with more children and then they would help her. My mother looked at the man and said, “Oh, that’s all right. No food for my child. I’ll take care of the problem.” We then started to leave. The man stopped her and said she should wait until they had taken care of the other families. My mother repeated what she said and continued to leave. He asked her how she was going to take care of the problem and my mother said. “When we get to the river on the way home, I’ll just throw her in since I have no food to feed her.” With that we left and started the long walk home.

          Along the way we passed the Jewish bakery and the baker was in the front yard doing some work. He asked my mom how she was doing and my mom repeated the story about how she was made to wait because she only had one child. “One child starves just like any other”, she told the baker. He agreed that it was unfair and made us wait while he went back into the bakery and brought out bread and some pastry treats that he knew I liked. My mother said she couldn’t take all that, people would wonder where she got all the food. The baker finally convinced her to take a loaf of bread and one pastry for me, saying he would drop off the rest when he was down by our home.

          When we got home my mother told my father what had happened and he agreed it wasn’t fair, but what were they going to do. I went into the back room to play and a short while later there was a knock at the door. When my mother opened the door there were two policemen standing there and they demanded to know what my mother did with the little girl (me). My mother, still feeling the hurt from how we were treated said, “The little girl? You’re too late, I threw her in the river an hour ago.” The cops started to get angry. My father spoke to my mother in Russian telling her to quit fooling around and tell them the truth. After she brought me out of the backroom, the cops relaxed and told her next week when the truck was in town with food she should go back up. My mother said she wouldn’t as long as she was treated like that. The cops left.

          Next door lived a German lady and when my mom told her the story, she agreed it wasn’t fair. Later that year, the German lady put our family’s name in at the church she attended to receive a basket of food at Christmas. One day, as Christmas approached, there was a knock on the door and two people from the church were there with a basket of food. My mother argued with them saying we couldn’t afford to pay for the food. They told her it was a gift from the church. My mother said, “We don’t go to your church.” And they said it did not matter. In addition to the basket of food, they brought a book for me. When they tried to give it to me, my mother stopped them and said we couldn’t afford to pay for the book. They assured her it was a gift, a Christmas gift. I took the book and went to my room.

          You see, I loved to read and I read anything I could get my hands on, but I had never ever, actually had a book of my own. This was my very first book. And I never forgot that.”


I turned my head away and wiped the tears from my eyes before my mom could see.

There are a few things you need to know. After my mom had told the story, she told me how she had always wanted to write a book about her childhood, but she never did. My mom has Alzheimer’s disease. So here is at least one of her stories that people can read. My mom kept her love of reading throughout her life and passed it down to her children. While we might have been refused the purchase of the latest toy in the store, we were never refused the purchase of a book. I sit here in my home surrounded by books. My fridge is filled with food, as is my belly. I never had to worry about putting food in my children’s mouths, though if the truth were known, I did think about drowning them (grin).

Take from this story what you will. For me it offers hope, hope tinged with a bit of sadness.There are people out there, good people; the silent heroes; the Jewish baker, the German neighbor, people who help, just because they can.

Years later, when my mom fell in love with my dad and they planned to marry, they looked for a church to get married in. My mom was raised Russian Orthodox. My dad was raised Lutheran. In the end they got married in a Presbyterian church, the very same church that gave my mother the first book she ever owned. They’ve been faithful members their whole lives.

March 15, 2007 at 11:17am
March 15, 2007 at 11:17am

         There seems to be a fascination with numbers lately. Ford has a car called the Five Hundred. Five Hundred what? There’s a movie in the theatres titled 300 and wasn’t there another one just recently dealing with 46 or 43 or 23 or some such supposedly significant number? There’s a TV show that uses a mathematician to solve crimes and of course there’s always the good old 666. Wow, even feels weird to type that.

         I have my own number problem, if you will. And in some fashion it actually appears to relate to 666. Right now, those of you that know me are going, “I knew it. I knew it. I always said he was the devil in disguise.” Let me put your minds at rest. Devil? No (Pay no attention to the horns). Devilish? Yes.

         My number problem has been ongoing since high school. Maybe even longer than that, but it was in high school where the technology was developed to actually allow me to begin to realize I had a problem. My number problem is time related. What’s more, it is time related to the first six hours of the day on a 24 hr clock or the first and third 6 hr increments on a 12 hr clock. Confused? Me too. It’s not the Einsteinian, theory of relativity, bending time type thing and not the “shoot I missed my appointment with destiny” type thing.

         High school was when I received my first digital type clock. In those days they didn’t have fancy LED readouts. It was a wheel of numbers type thing, sort of a cross between a slot machine and your local Little League scoreboard. Every minute a new number would flop down into place. This technology made my problem all to evident to me. It seems I have this uncanny ability to pick the precise moment (minute) to read time when the digits are all the same. At night, when I wake up and glance at the clock it invariably reads 1:11 or 4:44 or 2:22 or some such combination. The same thing holds true when I glance at the computer clock at work in the afternoon. Very, very seldom do I glance at a clock during those two time periods when I don’t get that combination. If I do, I’m usually only one minute late or early. (Luckily I can’t get 666)

         If I consciously think about it and then look at the clock, it doesn’t work. It also appears to have no correlation to the Lottery. Trust me, I tried. So what does it mean? What internal infernal clock mechanism causes me to read time at those precise moments? Is there some inner voice trying to tell me something? Is there a code? 1:11 means I should stay home from work the next day? 2:22 means I should sell my stock before the market crashes? Should I seek therapy? Should I consult an Oracle?

         Maybe these clock readings are all part of one all consuming time-connected code, sort of the time equivalent to DNA, and these are the more obvious segments. Should I become a hermit in a cave offering up prophecy based on my numeric readings of digital clocks? I have the gray beard. A staff and flowing robe should make the ensemble complete. Each day at 3:33 (And by the way my scout troop number was 333) I could issue forth from mmy darkened cave, surrounded by swirls of fragrant incense and issue forth such proclamations as, “always remember, no matter where you go…there you are.” I could be the walking equivalent to a Salada Tea Bag. There would be ooooh’s and ahhhhh’s. Scholars would studiously write down every word. I would turn and shuffle back into the cave and listen to the sounds of offerings plunking down into my fountain. (Every Prognosticator needs a fountain.) Life would be good.

         Or maybe it’s just some little 666 having fun at my expense and I think too much. .
March 5, 2007 at 8:38pm
March 5, 2007 at 8:38pm
         Okay, it’s time for me to come clean. I’ve been dreading this moment for a long time but down at group therapy, they said it would really help in my recovery if I told the whole story, so here goes.

         Yours truly, the man of many words, the man of many stories (some of which are even true) can’t…gulp…can’t…t-y-p-e.

         There I said it, or rather I spelled it or rather I typed it which really is kind of ironic isn’t it?

         I can see I must clarify. At the end of my two arms, are hands. They each have four fingers and a thumb. YES, they’re opposable! Give me a break already. These hands can do many wonderful things. When I think back, they’ve been used to fix motors, paint houses, build furniture, garages and etc. Though the etc didn’t turn out very well.

         They can cook, they can clean, and they can do laundry and sew. On occasion I can even use them to get dressed unassisted. I will admit, there have been times, eons ago, when they were used to pummel sense into people and they have even been used to perform autopsies on unsuspecting creatures, both in biology lab and out. They can, in keeping with the fishing theme of late, cast a lure with deadly accuracy and speaking of accuracy they have developed a fair prowess with firearms and other weapons over the years.

         They can turn the pages in a book, even the ones with no pictures. They can scratch where it isn’t polite to scratch and pick what you shouldn’t pick. They can and have signaled appropriate greetings to other people including the one finger salute and they have even played the clarinet.

         So you see they are multi-functional and I am quite proud of them. However, even with a typing course they have never been able to master a keyboard. I am a closet two-finger typist. A quite proficient one I might add. They make fun of me at work, this younger generation that was born holding a computer keyboard and with a pair of earphones surgically attached to their ears. They watch as “the old man muddles through” beating the keys with one finger on each hand. I have this ergonomically designed keyboard which really doesn’t lend itself to my style of typing but it’s wireless and I love the freedom. I can easily use it to crack the “younger generation" over the head when they’re not looking.

         I cannot type. Sigh. I shall never be able to type and for that I am shamed, outcast, set adrift upon an ocean of endless keyboards being tapped incessantly by a multitude of unseen hands. (Has a nice ring to it doesn’t it?) But I do not despair, because these hands can do many other things.

         Yes, they are calloused, arthritic and scarred. They’ve been burned, cut, stung, crushed and broken. But they are still here, still mostly functional, though of late, I noticed they don’t scratch and pick as well as they used to.

         They have picked up a crying child or two and held them gently until the sobs subside. They have firmly grasped Pop’s hand in an exchange of mutual respect and hugged all my family with love. They have reached out and protected others from harm and will no doubt do so again. They have been clasped in prayer and stung with the sound of applause. They have wiped tears from my eyes and have respectfully born the weight of a number of coffins.

         But the best, the absolute best, which allows me to forgive their one shortcoming, is; they softly caress my sleeping wife’s cheek as I kiss her goodbye when I leave for work. The soft warm feel of her skin beneath my fingers is true magic for my soul. It is magic that sticks with me all day long and makes me look forward to coming home at the end of the day.

         So what if I can’t t-y-p-e. My penmanship is even worse.

March 4, 2007 at 7:48pm
March 4, 2007 at 7:48pm
         Of course, the first person of the female persuasion I remember fishing with was my Mom. Oh, all right, and my older sister, I suppose we’ll have to include HER. Mostly what I remember was sitting on the worm can eating a Lebanon bologna sandwish and watching as Mom caught the biggest fish and Pop fished farther and farther away from us; mostly to get away fom the incessant whining of my sister. “Look, I found a dead fish. What’s that thing? Mom, Dad, Joseph’s eating the Fisher cookies! Lets go skip rocks. Dad! Mom caught another fish and it’s a whopper!” In all fairness to my sister she did prove to be useful at times. When Pop would snag his line, she’d swim out and unsnag it for him and she’d…she’d…well, I’m sure she did other things that were useful also, though quite frankly I don’t remember.

         Honest, Sis, I do love you. Luckily, Pop never taught her how to shoot.

         There came a time when I was old enough to be Pop’s fishing buddy without being chaperoned by Mom and Sis. Sis mostly lost interest in fishing at that point having discovered…boys. Just shows how smart she was. Most boys I knew just wanted to talk…fishin. Those were the blissful years. Pop and me fishing… Pop and me hunting… Pop and me…Pop and me. No women folk. It lasted a long time, twenty years or so. The sun shone, the sky was blue, the Yoo-hoo was cold and the fish were biting all the time…at least that’s the way I remember it.

         And the women folk left us alone. I didn’t have occasion to fish again with one until I had left home and was on my own. Ironically I traveled back home to do it. A buddy of mine was dating a girl named Betty. The name is changed to protect me. Now Betty had never been fishing before but wanted to impress my buddy. Let’s call him George. George and I and another friend, we’ll call him Bubba, had planned a fishing trip with Pop to the Delaware River for shad one spring weekend. We convened at my folks house. George brought Betty. Shad fishing is not the best way to initiate a novice into fishing. See my blog from a week or so ago if you want to understand why. As luck would have it there had been some real heavy storms to the east and the river was too high to fish. Enter plan B. Crappie fishing on a local reservoir. Pop and Bubba went in one boat. George, Betty and I went in the other. In our separate boats Pop and I tried to pattern the crappie. I succeeded first. I motored over and told him and Bubba what to do and what to use as George busily rigged his rod. Betty sat there, confused. I asked her to pass me her fishing rod and I rigged it accordingly. George flailed the water attempting to catch a crappie, ignoring Betty. I explained to her how to cast and how to retrieve the lure and how to tell when she had a bite. It took a few tries but she eventually got the hang of it. George whined. Betty caught a fish. George whined some more. Betty caught another fish. George whined even more. I contemplated sending George to sleep with the fishes. Betty caught the biggest crappie. The only part of this I never understood was…she ended up marrying George,

         And that brings us to today. My wife, Linda and I have been married for sixteen years. She never showed much interest in going fishing with me, until this year. I suspect some of it may be due to the brain surgery I had this past spring. The first couple of trips I made, I literally had to crawl out of the boat on my hands and knees. But for whatever reason, she decided she wanted to go fishing. I didn’t hesitate. I bought her a license and off we went. I taught her how to cast. I explained what a strike felt like and at the end of the day…she caught the biggest fish. (I sat in the back of the boat eating a Lebanon bologna sandwich)

So, do I ever take the women folk fishin’ with me?

“Only one, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

March 1, 2007 at 8:15pm
March 1, 2007 at 8:15pm

         My good WDC friend, sultry, in a comment to my last blog entry, wondered if we ever took along any women on our fishing trips. I felt that the best way to address this query was with another blog. The answer to Val’s question is quite simply, “No, not if we can help it.”

         Next question please.

         Okay, Okay, I’m sure there is at least one or two of you out of the…one or two that actually read my blog that would like further explanation.

         It started with Pop. The male members of my family have been, for generations, avid outdoorsmen. If one were to delve back into the origins of this, one would find that that was mostly because the women folk wouldn’t let the men folk inside, and they much preferred that if they were going to be outside, that they would be in close proximity to water in the hopes that once in a while they’d fall in and get “cleaned up”.

         In his single days Pop did not lack for fishing partners. He had friends, brothers, nephews and the occasional undercover warden all anxious to accompany him on his piscatorial forays. And then he met my Mom. Mom never saw a fish in her life, except in her Mom’s frying pan, let alone actually catching one, until she met my Dad. I’m not saying she was from some hoighty-toighty, high society family. Quite the contrary, she was first generation American. Both of her parents emigrated from Eastern Europe…back when we natives let foreigners in mostly uncontested.

         One of the first fishing trips that my parents took together, while dating, was to the Delaware River for smallmouth bass. My grandfather (Pappy) went along for moral support, and I suspect, to get a good laugh. Once the dust all settled, Mom caught the biggest fish, Pop fell in (He got “cleaned up” for the month) and Pappy…got a good laugh.

         Mom was no wilting flower. One time she had waded up pretty far in the river to be able to fish a particular hole. Just as she got settled in and was about to make her first cast, a warden hollered from shore. “Miss, can you come back in here so I can check your license?” Mom, figuring he really wanted to check out her in her bathing suit shot back, “If you want to see it, you’ll have to come out here!” The warden waited a few minutes and upon realizing Mom wasn’t going to budge, headed down river to investigate Pop. Pop was busy trying to wade to the New York side of the river out of the Pennsylvania warden’s grasp.

         For some reason, Pop decided to marry Mom. I’m thinking mostly so she couldn’t testify against him in a court of law, but there could’ve been other reasons. After all they’ll celebrate 60 years of marriage this coming July 2nd. And by the way today is Mom’s 84th birthday. Now, living in the Poconos, there was no lack, even back then, of places to honeymoon. If that didn’t do, there was always Niagara Falls. But Pop had other plans. He had a friend who knew a guy that had a cousin that knew of a great place to go fishing…in Canada. You had to fly in.

         The marriage ceremony went off smoothly. You might say they got hitched without a hitch. Never mind, I just did. Pop pointed the car north…towards Canada. They made it as far as Watertown, NY the first day and checked into a hotel. Pop walked down the street to the local bar to purchase some liquid libation. Mom waited in the hotel room. Pop went in the bar and met an Army buddy of his from WW II. What are the odds? Mom waited in the hotel room. Pop and the Army buddy relived old times. Mom waited in the hotel room. Pop told the Army buddy he just got married. A round on the house was delivered. Mom waited in the hotel room. (Really, I’m not making this up.) Pop finally leaves and walks erratically back to the hotel room. Mom, thinking he had left her, was somewhat peeved. It’s generally thought that it’s not a good idea to tick of a woman of Eastern European extraction, and from what I know that is one-hundred percent correct. No one should ever, ever ask what goes on behind closed doors on a honeymoon and no one, in this case, ever has, but suffice it to say, from that time forward, Pop never left Mom sitting in a hotel room and Mom never worried about Pop leaving her sitting in a hotel room. I’m not sure who paid for the damages to the furniture.

         The next day they arrived in Canada at the little general store where they were to meet the pilot that was to fly them to their fishing paradise. The store clerk informed them that the pilot was in the back but they’d have to wait for him to sober up first. Mom looked at Pop. Pop was already conditioned to “the look” from the night before. They got in the car and left. To this day there is some dispute as to where they ended up, but as the day grew long, they stumbled upon a place by a lake that had cabins for rent. They inquired within. Yep, a cabin for the week was available. Not only that, but the people that owned the cabins were from Pennsylvania. It was old home week.

         They went fishing. Pop hired a Native American guide. Mom caught the biggest fish. The guide hit a rock and sheared the pin on the outboard motor. A storm blew up. Pop fixed the motor with a nail from his tackle box. They went out fishing again. Mom caught the biggest fish. Pop accidentally broke his fishing rod. All too soon the honeymoon was over.

         And that’s how it all started. Fishin with women folk can be a problem, to say the least. Out of respect to my parents I must clarify a few things. While the stories above are for the most part true, Pop was and is a stickler for following the law so no warden ever tried to track him down. I don’t believe Mom ever broke any furniture over Pop, but I’m sure he got a severe talking to. As I said above, Mom is no wilting flower. My next blog I’ll update you on my experiences fishing with women folk.

February 26, 2007 at 7:52pm
February 26, 2007 at 7:52pm
“But that’s what men do to each other; they screw- each other to the wall!”
- Dr. Frasier Crane, (Cheers TV Show)

          In eastern PA, every spring, there begins an annual migration. From Philadelphia in the south, to Equinunk in the north, fishermen eagerly wait in anticipation of the first sign of the American Shad run in the Delaware River. There’s a Shad Hotline. There’s a shad festival. There are literally hundreds, if not thousands of shad anglers poised to migrate to the river the moment the word is given.

          Why, you might ask?

          To catch shad is the short answer. But, at least in my case, it was a bit more complicated than that.

          The shad is a member of the herring family It’s one of those ana…ana, anhydrous ammonia fishes, which is to say it spawns in fresh water but lives it’s life in the ocean, just like salmon. In the historical context, it is said that an early shad run saved Washington and his troops at Valley Forge. Recent archeological information disputes that claim, but there is no doubt that our colonists utilized shad. The key word is “utilized”. I’m not so sure that they ate them. Accounts of colonists using pitchforks to heave them on the shore are too numerous to be urban legends. Personally I have seen schools of hundreds late in the spawning season in less than a foot of water so I believe they were a factor in early colonists survival.

          Remember I said that the shad is a member of the herring family? And how do you eat herring? You pickle it. Do you know why you pickle it? Because a herring has too many frickin bones to eat like a normal fish so you pickle it to dissolve the bones. I once read an article on filleting a shad. It required 56 different cuts to get a boneless filet! The most famous way of preparing shad is to nail it to a hickory board and slow roast it next to an open fire. After several hours it is recommended you throw the shad away and eat the board. So I don’t believe the colonists used shad for food unless they were desperate. I believe those pitchforked fish became fertilizer in the cornfields as per your local neighborhood Native American instructions. But I digress.

          Shad are not good to eat. They are, however, pound for pound, one of the best fighting fish you are likely to ever encounter in freshwater. And this was why we fished for them. The limit was 15 a day, but we didn’t care, we never kept any anyway.

          Shad fishing, because food procurement wasn’t part of the deal, was strictly for fun. I would like to recount one of those fun filled trips for you.

          It started early one May morning, just at dawn, with the launching of my boat somewhere north of Port Jervis NJ and south of Lackawaxan, PA There were three of us, close friends, and prone to playing a practical joke or two on each other. The first of the day occurred as we motored out to anchor in the channel.

          “Joe, there’s water in the bottom of the boat,” said Steve.

          “Don’t worry, it rained last night. Just a little rain water.” I replied while I studied the shoreline looking for the marker to help us position the boat and drop anchor.

          “Joe, there’s a hell of a lot of water in the boat,” said Steve as he lifted his feet up on the seat.

          That’s when I looked down and realized the stern of the boat was only inches from being underwater. I plunged my hand into the water to discover that the drain plug, the Achilles tendon of a boat, wasn’t in place. I KNOW I put that plug in. John, in the front of the boat, said nothing. Luckily, I had been schooled in the fine art of maritime safety by none other than Admiral Myron Fogbottom, who assured me that if I was ever in this situation, all I needed to do was gun the engine and get the boat on plane. The water would flow through the open drain hole back into the river. I gunned the engine and pointed the boat upstream. With the three of us, our gear and some fifty-five odd gallons of water, the boat was having a tough time getting on plane. I studied the approaching rapids with doubt and misgiving. In a normal day, and this wasn’t starting out to be a normal day, we would have to pick our way between the boulders and even then we might not make it through without running aground. One hundred yards to the rapids, seventy yards to the rapids, fifty yards to the rapids and now drain-plug pulling John was looking nervous. Twenty-five yards to the rapids and I throttled back, spun the boat downstream and gunned the motor once more. There were a number of confused fishermen standing on shore. The next rapids downstream was rapidly approaching with much the same scenario as had just developed upstream. We were, at least for the moment, at somewhat of an equilibrium. No water was leaving the boat, but none was coming in either. Finally at the last moment I cut the engine spun the boat toward shore and ran it full throttle up on to a sand bar. There we emptied the boat, drained the water and put the plug back in. It was time to resume fishing.

          We had long since perfected the art of shad fishing. It was nothing for us to catch fifty or sixty of these fish in a day. The sides of their mouths were paper-thin. If you hooked them there, odds were, no matter how long and carefully you played them, you weren’t going to boat them. In the roof of the mouth or the bottom was another story. There you stood a chance. Shad also were great at tangling lines so when one of us hooked a fish the other two would dutifully reel in our lines to prevent the inevitable tangled birds nest. In order for all of us to get as much fishing time in as possible it was customary to tighten the drag and put as much pressure on the shad as possible. If he was hooked well you’d get him to the boat quickly. If he wasn’t, he’d throw the hook and everyone could get back to fishing.

          There are canoe liveries on the Delaware River and long about noon or so it wasn’t unusual to see flotillas of these canoes floating by. Many of them carried scantily clad women folk and since we were red-blooded American males we weren’t above trying to impress them with our fishing prowess. You know, the old “look at me, I can provide food for the table” gimmick that Oog pulled so many years ago to get his cave woman. There we were, a bright sunny bikini filled day and Steve, he’s in the middle seat, hooks a shad. He stands up putting on his best Al Linder impersonation and battles the mighty shad. The fish even cooperates by leaping out of the water in close proximity to the canoes. There are ooh’s. There are ahhh’s. John and I were getting tired of the show. So we pantsed him. There he was, in all his anatomical glory, fighting a shad and there was nothing he could do about the cool breeze he was feeling down under. It was about that time that he shouted, “Get the net! He’s coming in.”

          Without missing a beat, John responded, “A net? What do you want a net for that little bitty thing for?” The native bikini clad women, pointed and snickered and floated out of sight. An hour or so later came the opportunity for Steve’s revenge. John had a particularly large shad on (they can go 10 lbs.) and was fighting him much the way Steve had, but he was being careful to guard his drawers. We were becoming impatient. You could hear John’s line sing with the vibration and tension of the fish and the current. Every time John would turn him toward the boat he’d make another run for Singapore. Steve said nothing. He calmly pulled out a cigarette lit it and took two puffs. After the third puff, as the fish made a run across current bringing the line in close to the boat, he reached up and touched the lit end of the cigarette to John’s line. Grinning, he said, “Looks like you lost him. Now let’s get back to fishing.” With that he picked up his rod and made a cast.

         That, my friends, is how men are. They screw each other to the wall!!

         Note to readers of my Little Jim stories. It was on just such a fishing trip as this that Little Jim, Goose and Joe got their first taste of Yoo Hoo. A canoe tipped in the rapids above and a six pack floated down past. They netted it and as they say, the rest is history.

February 24, 2007 at 8:52pm
February 24, 2007 at 8:52pm
Outdoor Writer and Editor of Outdoor Life, Jim Zumbo took a stance against the use of assault style weapons for hunting in his blog last week. It cost him his TV show, his sponsors, his job at OL and probably several other things I'm not aware of. Here is my letter to Jim (hopefully, by way of Pat McManus) as I sent it.

Hello Pat,

First, I would like to thank you for all the great stories you've entertained me with down through the years. Several of them seemed strangely familiar...liked I lived them in my youth. You are a great writer and I look forward to each and every one of your new books...and I can see by your web site a trip to my local bookstore is needed. But that's not why I'm writing to you.

I know from following your career (and Jim's) that you and Jim Zumbo are friends. I just read about the unfortunate turn of events that is wrecking havoc with his career, and I presume, his life, and I want to offer my support. I was unsuccessful in my attempt to find an email address for Jim, but I did find this address for McManus Books and am sending this in the hope that you can forward it to him. I'm hoping it's as simple as hitting the forward button. (grin) With that said I offer Jim the following:

Hello Jim,

I have been a lifelong outdoorsman ever since I was old enough to hold a fishing rod. While most of my time in the outdoors has been limited to Pennsylvania, I eagerly looked forward to each and every issue of Outdoor Life, for you took me on hunting trips I never otherwise would have had the opportunity to experience. I was there when you sold your first story to OL. It saddens me to hear that I will no longer, at least at OL, have that opportunity. And, I believe, it was through no fault (or at least very little fault) of your own. I haven't read your original blog post, only the news reports covering it on MSNBC so I sit here aware that I may not have all the facts, but for what I want to say it really doesn't matter. Whatever you said, you took a position, you stated how you felt about an issue and in this case that issue was assault rifles.

I don't own one and I have no desire to own one. I, too, don't see the sense in using them to hunt. I don't begrudge their ownership or legal use, but it's not for me. Each to his own. But in reading the report of your undoing, you made me aware of something I never really understood until now. Assault rifles make me nervous. Sure, I can admire them. But whenever I would walk through the gun department and someone would be handling one at the counter, I would get nervous. Deer rifles don't make me nervous, shotguns don't make me nervous, and until you categorized them as "terrorist weapons" I never truly understood why assault rifles did. Their original design was military in nature. In my mind I associate them with the hunting of human beings and not of game animals.

The argument can accurately be made that all firearms had their origin in militaristic uses. It's a "what came first, the chicken or the egg" scenario when we think back to the first weapon. Was it for obtaining food or offing some competing tribesman? We will never know. I think we are far enough removed from the first flintlock, or the M-1 to think of them as being much more than weapons of the "past". Still, they hold the same lethal capabilities now that they did when they first appeared. Maybe in two hundred years when someone's phaser is on overload society will look back at assault rifles with the same view. I don't know.

But Jim, you stated your feelings, your position, your opinion. And for that you were vilified. This I believe is a great wrong. It is true that freedom of the press sometimes comes at a high cost, but in this was a cost wrongly applied. I am proud, most of the time, to be a member of the brotherhood of oudoorsmen and women. This is not one of those times. For the record I am not an NRA member either. I was at one time but I found I didn't agree with their position on a number of issues, and more importantly, how they presented those issues, so I decided I didn't want the NRA to represent my views. In other words, I took a stand.

Apparently, in your case your sponsors are more interested in employing someone who espouses only their views and are not interested in encouraging the independent thinking that at one time made this nation great. Now, if your blog site was bought and paid for by your sponsors, if you signed a contract with them saying you would positively support their positions, regardless of your personal views, I suspect they may have a point. And in that case you are guilty, guilty of not choosing the correct venue to voice your opinion.

There is one thing that still concerns me. It appears, when faced with the insurmountable onslaught of opinion against you, most of which, I believe, is largely manufactured by those parties that stand the most to lose, (It must be extremely satisfying to know that they believe you wield enough power within the sport community to single handedly strike the death knell for assault weapons), you have gone into apology mode. Do you need their financial support that bad, Jim? Was it truly a lack of sleep that caused you to write those anti-assault rifle words? I have lost what respect I had for the NRA and your other sponsors because of this incident. (Even though I don't agree with the NRA on all their issues I still think they serve a purpose.) In this case, they are, plain and simply, wrong. they should be encouraging open discussion amongst their members, not stifling the voice of dissent (reason?)

Jim, I do admire that you voiced an opinion that I'm sure you knew would be unpopular amongst the powers that be and I offer you my wholehearted support but if there is anything in this whole debacle that causes me to lose any respect for you it is the "tail between your legs, whipped puppy" outcome.

Say it ain't so Jim.

Joe Umholtz

PS Jim and Pat, I wrestled with whether I should leave my signature below, fearing that you might interpret this as an attempt by some wannabe writer to gain your attention. It is not.I am not in your league. I decided to leave the signature because I am also posting this letter to my blog. I don't work for your sponsors. I was a potential customer. They can whine all they want.

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February 19, 2007 at 10:14am
February 19, 2007 at 10:14am
You have to admit, that dirt covered ball of starch you dig out of the ground sure doesn’t look like anything you’d want to put in your mouth, let alone chew and swallow. Still, over the years it has proven itself to be a veritable cornucopia of culininary possibilities. While thinking about today’s blog I quickly thought of a number of ways I like to eat potatoes. I won’t bore you with the complete list but here are a couple of my favorites. Boiled potatoes with hot lettuce or dandelion salad on top. Yummmm. Roasted in the coals of a campfire until the skins are charred and crisp. And last of course, and the subject of today’s blog, French-fried.

I don’t know who the guy (or gal) was that first thought of throwing a bunch of cut up potatoes into a pot of boiling oil was, but my hat is eternally doffed to that individual. I believe my first experience with anything vaguely resembling a French fry was when my mom would cut up potatoes and toss them into a cast iron skillet filled with hot oil. They were sort of a cross between potato chips and fries, and they were good.

Try as I might I can’t remember getting French fries in any of the local restaurants when I was a kid. I’m sure they must’ve had them but I just don’t remember eating them so they mustn’t have been anything spectacular. In high school French fries from McDonalds were my favorite. They were tasty, greasy and salty. I did have a dilemma though. I didn’t like their hamburgers. So I would buy the fries and go next door for a BK whopper. Sometimes I’d add in a Wendy’s Frosty. Sort of a combo meal taken to extremes.

I became a French fry snob. They had to be thin. Didn’t like those slab fries at all. They had to be crisp, light brown in color tending towards medium brown on the edges. They had to have lots of salt. They had to be piping hot. They had to come in the little paper envelope. Sometimes I would buy two or three and that would be my entire meal. Imagine my glee when I could finally supersize!

Ketchup was and still is optional. Sometimes I did and sometimes I didn’t. If I do, it has to be Heinz ketchup out of the bottle and I never, never, put it on the fries. It’s to the side, for dipping.

It was on a trip to Idlewild Amusement Park that I discovered the ultimate in fries. There, in a building, with a sign outside that simply says French Fries, is my potato heaven. Inside are huge piles of washed spuds. When you order up some fries, they take the whole potato, skins and all, force it through this French fry maker thingy and dump it into the hot oil right before your eyes. Several minutes later they hand you a greasy brown crisp mess of fries and ask if you want cheese on them. Nix, the cheese. Go “au natural”. You won’t be sorry.

The skins are what make them special. They enhance that potato flavor. Besides that, the skins are where the vitamins are and I’m told eating fries with the skins on will automatically negate all the bad effects of the pound and a half of lard you consume with them…at least that’s the word on the street.

I have since found these same fries in several other locations (not yet in Harrisburg)

My favorite fry location?

Italian Village Pizzaria in Ebensburg, PA. Just think, Pizza and French fries, in one location!

“Heaven, I’m in heaven…"

(Joe dances away happily)

unashamed self promotion. My Writer's Cramp Entry

 Fine Dining  (ASR)
"You said you wanted to go someplace special for our anniversary..."
#1220596 by Rasputin

I won!
February 18, 2007 at 12:50pm
February 18, 2007 at 12:50pm

         Today’s Blog (and tomorrow’s) is brought to us courtesy of Nada and Katya the Poet . Both have kindled thoughts of two of my favorite foods lately.

         Pizza, I truly believe, is the universal food. Eons from now when some enterprising interplanetary archeologist excavates our civilization, he or maybe she, or maybe it, will discover that pizza is what fueled our economy. I mean think of it. First, it’s a main meal, as evidenced by the fact that my wife and I went out for pizza for dinner last night. We dined, no kidding, at the “No Name Pizzeria” on Derry Street in Harrisburg, PA. I highly recommend it. Excellent pizza and Linda says the Chocolate Mouse Pie/cake (she couldn’t make up her mind which it was) is to die for.

         It’s a breakfast food, as evidenced by the fact that I had two slices of leftover pizza for breakfast this morning. I ate it cold, which is my preferred way to eat pizza for breakfast. For dinner I prefer it piping hot and that is exactly the way “No Name” delivered it to the table.

         It is, of course, a snack and lunch food as well, as evidenced by the fact that the last two slices of leftover pizza will soon be in my belly for lunch. These I will warm, not in the microwave, no sir-ee, in the oven so as to retain as much of the original crispness of the crust as possible. It’s also an appetizer. Surely you’ve had those little pizza squares at some fancy soiree you’ve been to?

         Universal food. I rest my case.

         I’m a traditionalist when it comes to pizza. I like mine round, thin crust, real cheese, and with pepperoni. I’m not above trying variations and am also particularly fond of garlic chicken white pizza. But when it comes right down to it, cheese and pepperoni is what I go for.

         The first pizza I ever ate (that I can remember) was from Fallbrook bakery, in Carbondale, PA. It was square, with a thick Sicilian crust and since I had nothing at the time to compare it to, was in my estimation, quite good. It was, in fact, the only pizza available in Carbondale at the time. I don’t remember round pizza hitting the town until the early seventies, and in my limited palette the round pizza quickly replaced the square as my favorite.

          It wasn’t long after my initiation to round pizza that I was also introduced to the Lagouda Squeeze, invented by Sammy Lagouda of Scranton, PA. To accomplish the “squeeze” you take a full slice of round pizza, which through no fault of its own is actually triangular in shape, and roll it up, until it resembles one of those Pillsbury crescent roll thingies. You then fold that in half and squeeze the whole thing into your mouth at one time. A novel way to eat pizza to be sure, but I soon tired of it and went back to the traditional bite at a time method. As a side note Sammy Lagouda went on to later fame as the inventor of the calzone when he accidentally folded an entire pizza in half.

         Around the same time as the Lagouda Squeeze I discovered a small pizzeria in Forty Fort, PA called “Victory Pig” For those of you familiar with Seinfeld, Victory Pig was the forerunner of “The Soup Nazi”. You got pizza their way, period. Their way was (and is) actually quite good. It was a cross between French bread pizza and Sicilian and didn’t use sauce but used chunks of tomatoes, onions and spices. Tasty.

         After that they all started to blend together, one pizzeria became quite like the next; one pizza, the same as the next. The reader will note that I have not referenced the big pizza chains. You know who they are. I make it a point to stay away from such places. The same goes for the frozen box pizzas. Why would you use either when there are so many other choices out there? I like my pizzas made in small local shops by people who can barely speak English. This is as it should be.

         Now the second part of this deals with French fries, but it will have to wait until tomorrow. You see my stomach is growling and there’s two slices of pizza in the fridg with my name on them.

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